DALLAS -- Friday was an early release day at Laureate Preparatory, an Uplift Education charter school in downtown Dallas. After the students, or "scholars" as Uplift calls them, had gone, the gravity of the day sat in.
"It's still hard to process," admitted Uplift Education kindergarten teacher Misti Olthoff. "I value that their parents bring the kids here and put their trust in me. I take on that responsibility. And when I heard about [the shooting], I looked around the room and thought, 'It could be my class.'"
Then Olthoff's voice trailed off as tears welled up in her eyes.
Fellow Uplift Education teacher Ingrid Scantlebury said pictures of the children were gut-wrenching to watch.
"Those kids, they looked like my kids. They were scared and upset," she said. "And I know that's how my kids would react."
Olthoff, Scantlebury, and former Uplift Education teacher Sara Ortega admitted they look at the kids in their classroom as if they are their own children.
"I would do anything to make sure they're safe," Scantlebury said.
"I catch myself calling them 'my children,' or 'my kids.' It's never 'students' because they are yours," Ortega said. "They really become a part of your life."
Ortega is now a public relations representative for Uplift Education, but up until a week ago, she was a teacher. Last year, she was teaching eighth grade.
"There was a lock down situation at that school. Which, luckily, turned out to be a false alarm, but the immediate reaction was fear," she said. "And then it's, 'How do I keep these children calm? How do I do what needs to be done to keep them safe?'"
Scantlebury said she was proud of the Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers' actions.
"I'd say to them, 'Thank you for doing your job,'" she said. "We can't understand what you're going through. We are so heartbroken and torn about what happened, even here in Texas. We're so proud of what you did to save those kids."
"I think they definitely did what they needed to do to protect [the children,]" Olthoff added, "and their instincts just took over."